After skipping a week, here’s a new chapter for Hollow. It will also be the last chapter of the story I will post here. I want to take this story and turn it into a proper novel, which is why I don’t want to continue writing it for the blog. But other short stories will follow, do not worry! Of you wish to read chapter 8, click here.
All around me people fell on their knees until I was the only one left standing. Stranger tried to pull me down, but I did not follow his example. Death had always been a part of living, my mother used to say. I was aware that whoever Death was, she needed me more than I needed her. So I wanted to greet her as equals, or not at all.
I heard the whispers around me, but I chose to ignore them. All of these people were most likely conditioned to fear her or respect her.
A large shadow appeared on the wall, followed by soft footsteps. The crowd collectively held their breaths, as if something sensational was about to happen. I couldn’t help but hold my own breath, unaware of what I could expect.
Then she appeared. She was small, dressed in a black robe with pointed shoulders. Her pale face was long and her grey eyes sunk deep into their sockets. She looked young, even younger than me, but her long hair was silver. Death stopped right in front of me and her eyes found mine. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. Not a single muscle on her face moved.
The people around me bowed their heads, not willing to look at her. I made myself stare back at her and I refused to speak until she did.
It took a while before that happened. A small smile appeared on her face. “Holly,” she said, her voice fragile and soft.
I nodded. I didn’t know what else to do. Her smile grew a little wider. I wondered why everybody was so impressed by her. Naturally I knew of Death’s powers, but I had expected someone who exuberated power. Not a porcelain doll.
“We’ve been waiting for your arrival,” she continued when I did not respond anymore, “I apologise how events have unfolded. It seems that my trusted Stranger saw some potential in you. He must have thought you were not yet fit to leave the land of the living. But how unfortunate it all is, still it provides us opportunities.”
In the corner of my eye I saw Stranger cringe. I still didn’t understand why he hadn’t just left me to die. I wasn’t sure if I ever got the answer. Part of me felt sorry for him. The eyes of his peers burned into him. They all disapproved of him and his stupid mistake. Another part of me thought it served him right.
“Holly, as you may know by now, the balance of Life and Death is in danger of being destroyed. Creatures from the underworld, we call them Soul Searchers, have found their way to the land of the living and are eager to exterminate me and my helpers in order to keep everything alive. While this may sound appealing to all of those who fear me, it will have catastophic consequences for all living beings. Which is why you need your help. In return, I will give you your life back,” Death spoke, her voice still fragile.
“And what if I don’t want to help? My dear new friend Stranger told me he would kick my ass back to the land of the living and have these creatures find me and devour me. Consider I’d have my life back then and knowing I can fend for myself to some point, why would I help you?” I asked.
Soft murmers rose from the crowd. I don’t think any of them had ever spoken to Death this way, or heard anyone speak to her like this for that manner.
I expected Death to become angry or annoyed. Instead her smile just grew wider, making her look even younger than she had before. “I admire your confidence, even though I know it is a facade. Tell me, what is it you desire, Holly?”
I took a deep breath and collected my thoughts for a moment before I spoke. “A second chance,” I finally answered.
The smile fell for a moment as Death observed me. She then nodded. “If that is what I will give to you, will you pledge your alliance to me now?”
“I will,” I answered.
“Do you realise that for as long as you are with us, you will have to cut all ties to your former life? Even your name?” She asked.
“I do,” I said.
“Tell me, how do you feel?” Death asked at last, her voice gentle and soothing.
Once again I had to think for a while. I looked over at Stranger who was still on his knees beside me. He dared not look at me.
“Empty,” I answered at last.
Death stepped down until she was right in front of me. She closed my eyes and rested her hand on my shoulder.
“Then from now on, your name is Hollow.”